My former home of Charleston, West Virginia—as well as an nine county radius—is under a state of emergency today after an unknown amount of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol spilled into the Elk River. The river supplies drinking water to the area.

The spill happened at a chemical plant that manufactures a product used to wash coal at processing plants in the region. Now, as many as 100,000 people, and possible more, have been warned not to drink, cook or wash with their tap water.

My previous employer West Virginia Public Broadcasting is doing a great job providing updates on the situation, including a list of still-unanswered questions about the spill. The situation there is a sobering reminder of the inherent risks that come with storing and using toxic chemicals near drinking water sources, or really, anywhere near population centers.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's News Director.